Swing Discussion Boards > the basics

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by goldfish, Mar 3, 2004.

  1. goldfish

    goldfish New Member

    hi all, i'm pretty new to dancing and was wondering: i want to do the basics right, and after a dance camp, it hit me that although i thought i *was* doing them right, there's soooo much more in say, a turn, lindy circle or a swingout than i ever imagined. where you put your weight, the "and" beats, frame...

    and then thing is, i don't necessarily know that i'm doing it wrong - i mean, my partners don't always notice - until a teacher goes, hey you're not finishing up your triple step properly...etc. how do you know you're doing it right? what does "right" feel like?

    i don't want to start with lousy basics since that's the foundation of, well, everything. but i don't have the money for private after private (yet!).

    i've heard dancers say that they did complex things, variations and styling, and then had to go right back to the basics and unlearn a lot of bad habits. is there any way of preventing this? or is that learning/dancing's natural cycle? :)

    oh, and follows are always talking about how great a really really good lead feels. on the flip side, what makes a really good follow? other than doing everything backwards and in heels... :p
  2. cl5814

    cl5814 New Member



    now that you know what you are suppose to be doing, you just need to practice that. Consider yourself lucky that you found out while still learning/getting comfortable with the basics, rather than much later when you would need to correct the bad habit(s). Believe me, i am suffering through the bad habits in some of my dances.
  3. Jmatthew

    Jmatthew New Member

    You could write a million pages on this and never say everything that needs to be said. It's much much easier to see and evaluate, but...

    1) while you're new focus hard on hitting all your triple steps.

    2) Make sure you're bouncing into the floor, not up into the air

    3) Make sure your arm is staying still on one, and that you're stepping away from your partner to lead her, rather than pulling your arm back to lead her forward.

    That's a godo start anyway :)
  4. Neil

    Neil Member

    I think that no matter how good you are, there is always better. I don't think "right" exists.

    As far as defining a good follower... I would say that a beginner follower looks for a clue to know what step I'm doing, then she does that step. I really good follower is so aware of my movements that she does he step as I'm doing mine. The two of us move with such synchronicity that it's like when two voices come together in perfect harmony. Every movement she does, from her feet to her hand styling and head whips feel like they are coming from my lead.
  5. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    . . . as if they could read your mind??? When they are that good, I seem to feel my inadequacies come out, then I get plagued with them and sometimes cannot dance.
    However, I actually could "feel" what you wrote, and I agree. My only "knock" of a good follower would be if they said they could "follow anybody," which definitely underestimates the dancing abilities of good leaders!
  6. d nice

    d nice New Member

    There are lots of styles that will influence where you should be on any given count and the best way to get there...

    If we look at the commonalities we find that a leader should:

    1. use an athletic posture. Your weight should be carried on the ball of your foot, your knee should be bent over the ball of your foot, your hips should be pulled back, and your sternum should be over your bent knee. This allows you to make directional changes by pushing with the leg without having to adjust your body weight forward backward or to either side first, allowing better balance.The depth of the flex/bend is unimportant in general (the faster you go the lower your body needs to be, but that will generally be pretty obvious and natural) but the elationship outlined must be maintained.

    2. always move from their center, moving their body to create, redirect, slow, and stop their followers movement. NOT the arm. The arm can be used to further manipulate or fine tune the momentum, if you desire, but it is extraneous.

    3. use small, clear, steps, lift your feet off the floor don't drag them, keep them under your body, keep your rhythms clear, flex into the floor and push out into the next step, and commit all your weight to your full steps, never split your weight on a count.

    4. prepare your follower for movement. Your body should always start shifting in the direction you want your follower to travel in the count before you want her to start going there. if you are going to lead two swingouts (lindy turns) in a row the second triple of the first step should be moving backwards to create leveraged tension so when your first step backwards is a smooth transition.

    5. Use proper frame. Frame is created by torso muscles, the muscles that control how the arm moves in relation to the body. When your lats and pecs are engaged your arm will have a limited range of motion as far as how it travels away and towards the body before the momentum is transfered into the body. Arm muscles should be as relaxed as possible at all times. As a general rule you should never consciousely attempt to make your arm muscles active.

    6. Use leveraged tension and compression to lead. This is what connection is all about. The five previous steps should create this partner dynamic, but I include it as its own item so you can self correct. If you are unable to achieve or maintain leveraged tension (the bodies centers having a slight to strong pull from each other) or compression (the bodies having a slight or strong push towards each other) one or more of the previous five steps is being done incorrectly.

    Remember: As important as technique is... spirit is the soul of the dance. Have fun, don't get to concerned about techniique on the dance floor, thats what practicing is for.
  7. d nice

    d nice New Member

    I'd say that a mediocre follower is aware of your movements and steps as you do. A good follower steps after you do, and a great follower makes you make her step.

    I'll let Sue pipe in with the things that make a world-cass follower.
  8. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    So very, very true Damon! And a great point to reiterate!
  9. Neil

    Neil Member

    Been there, done that. When a girl is so good that I want to dance with her, then she's so good that I'm too intimidated to ask. ;) So, I hardly ever ask anybody to dance. Really, I can go months without asking any girls to dance. I'm terrible. I hardly ever say no though, even when I would rather not dance.
  10. suek

    suek New Member

    DISCLAIMER: If any sarcasm creeps in here, please forgive it. Joe Lanza (remember BlackSheep and his Magic Pill?) has resurfaced on our local SactownSwing board and is driving me and eveyone else insane! I just read his rants du jour and there might be some leftover sarcasm in me. It's not directed at anyone here. Believe me.
    Absolutely agree that my job is to follow (look it up: To come or go after; proceed behind--first definition in dictionary.com). If I'm looking for clues so I can do the step exactly when my lead is doing his, I'm thinking and anticipating. Ask Damon how much he likes that! There's a lag (that would be the after/behind part) created by the movement that generates in the lead's body and--with his frame engaged--is communicated through his hand to mine (or wherever our connection point happens to be in the moment--doesn't have to be the hands), and with my frame engaged my body is thus moved. That's what Damon's talking about (and he will certainly clarify if I get it wrong) with the mediocre/good/great comment above. I try to be mediocre as little as possible. (Wish I could say I never get in my head and never anticipate, but that would be lying.) When I'm good my steps are a hair (or a quarter or a half a beat, depending on everything: our connection, the tempo, you name it) behind my lead's. When I'm great I'm just stepping/doing footwork underneath my own body and my lead makes me move. Period. Simple. Simple but not easy.
    Sigh. You know I had to go to the car to get my notebook. Talk about simple but not easy: I didn't trust myself to retain these Four Rules of World-Class Following and repeat them correctly. Here they are. All you need to know:
    1. Posture (see the zillion previous posts on the athletic posture, sternum over knees, bounce into the ground)
    2. Frame engaged
    3. Feet underneath my body and constantly moving (doing footwork)
    4. Let the leader initiate, change and halt my movement
    Oh yeah and 5. Have fun.
  11. suek

    suek New Member

    Okay I'll embarrass myself and admit just how much assumption there is in my dancing and share the ongoing series of Ahas (or is that Duhs?) I keep having and having and having.......

    My changes of direction are led. My stops and sways and stalls are led. My holds in Balboa are led. My Charleston kicks are led. All I need to do -- ALL I GET TO ASSUME -- is that I'm stepping underneath myself. In the direction I was last sent. Any variation -- kick, up-hold, down-hold, any damn thing -- is not something I'm to guess or figure out. It's freaking led.

    And that's why I am behind, or after the lead. His move makes mine.


    But not easy.
  12. goldfish

    goldfish New Member

    WOW. i gotta remember that. it's not duh at all... it's more than just imitation or mimicry. it's... it's...letting yourself follow.

    okay now that was duh :)

    i gotta agree with the "good leaders" part Vince, cause i'm just starting and i don't quite have my frame flexibly-firmly in place all the time, nor do i have my footwork done perfectly (gotta practice!), so it's gotta be some good leads out there making it all work, and making it all fun :) three cheers for you gents/ladies

    i've seen some lindyhoppers that have really straight posture... their legs bend but their backs are like pokers. is that just personal style?
  13. KevinL

    KevinL New Member

    First, do what Damon said, he's the DF swing dance god.

    "right" is different for everyone, and varies with location and dance style. Try working on whatever your local style is, and once you get the hang of that you can branch out to other styles and make it your own.

    Is there a way to prevent having to ge back to learn the basics? Sure, do lots of basics classes from the beginning. Take beginning classes every single time you get the chance, and once you think you are doing what the teachers want, start focusing on what they are doing, but not bothering to tell the newbies.

    Of course with that advice comes another bit of advice: once you think you've got a good feel for the basics starting doing intermediate/ advanced classes so that you get to dance with experienced people who will be able to lead/follow you better than the beginners.

    A mixture of lots of basics, some intermediate classes and lots of social dancing will make you improve quickly.

    Good luck.

  14. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

    Definately not easy. How does this work with tandem charleston? I've yet to follow this succesfully during a dance except for when I know it's coming-- thus not truely following the lead for it. How does the lead tell me to kick and change my footwork through my hands from behind? I can follow gross weight changes but I would like to know how to follow it for real.
  15. suek

    suek New Member

    Kristen, the lead into TC or the lead for different moves once you're in TC? Two different and juicy topix. Although the basic answer to both is the same. Everything is led. And all we have to do is continue the movement that was last led, at the same rate of speed, in the same direction, until it's changed by the lead.
  16. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

    I know the principle and I hold it as my ultimate goal while I dance. This is also where the confusion lies when I attempt to truely understand and apply this principle.

    I tend to find the lead into TC to be tricky to interpret in it's own right but my main question is once I'm there what tells me to kick and furthermore, what tells me to kick when and where?

    I can get myself through the step but only on the basis of thinking "oh this is tandem charleston -- I know how that goes" which may look like following (some lead might even think that it is) but it's not.

    I need a private or just a knowlegable and patient partner to walk through it and help me break it down.
  17. suek

    suek New Member

    Absolutely. I totally get this and it is no longer working for me. Thanks a million to the looks I get from my leads who are also my teachers. Those "okay lead yourself, turn yourself, come forward unled if that's what you really want to do. OR you could try letting me lead and see what that feels like" moments. Sigh.

    I asked Damon to focus on TC in a recent private and he patiently did the same move over and over and over and over until AHA I got it that it's exactly the same. I continue in the same direction doing the same footwork until I am led to turn, step, yadda yadda. It is never my freaking job to anticipate -- Oh I know what this is and I'm supposed to turn now! -- Never. I know I probably sound completely boring and I'm probably repeating myself. Imagine how it is for me as I get the same lesson over and over and over until I 1) can hear it and 2) practice it enough to make the physical connection.

    There are better words for this I'm sure, but this is the best I've got this moment.
  18. Bronzestudent

    Bronzestudent New Member

    Hey Goldfish,

    Being a beginner myself, but with more experience than I had a couple years ago, I've learned a few things about the Basics.

    But you may be referring more to Swing than other Ballroom dances like Waltz and Foxtrot. You'll eventually add more flair and different technique to the footwork in those dances and others. I can't recall any more I've learned about Swing basic steps. But definetely, pay attention and concentrate on good technique on your basics. It will become 2nd nature and pay off soon.
    On how a good follow feels - wow! Maybe it just takes a while for the Lady to feel comfortable in her role as one following the guy. But some women just feel lightweight and highly responsive on the floor. Different dances will call for different feels. Like, Tango has a different feel than Waltz, and different from any Swing dance. But what I've picked up from different ladies I've danced with, they like gentle leads. Firm, so they know what you're doing and don't feel like they're going to push me over, especially in moves that require using eachother's weight and resistance, but gentle and timely are always important. And, I feel comfortable with a girl if she's on time with the music, not swaying or rocking too much, and feels gently responsive to my leads. And don't feel too embarassed if you get run into somebody while you're dancing. The guy should keep that from happening, but it takes time to learn to navigate well.
    Maybe that's helpful, it's been good for me to organize my thoughts for you.
  19. d nice

    d nice New Member

    The lead into tandem charleston should be similar to a cross-hand inside turn, except the leader brings your right arm real close to your body which prevents you from traveling across his body as and halts your turn so you are "butt to belly button". That same right to right connection should redirect your momentum backwards as the leader takes your left hand which brings you into a back step with your left foot. From this point on the leader is shifting his body, and therefore yours, into charleston rhythm.

    He leads the gross body movements, the moving fore and back, and the timing of it, your kicks are really your choice, but they should be understated, more floating swings and stretches of the leg rather than forceful kicks.
  20. goldfish

    goldfish New Member

    wow the amount of theory that goes into a split-second move baffles the mind... :shock:
    this was useful though. i've noticed happier looks on my leads' faces when i was less... energetic about the process :p i had an epiphany the other day during a class when the teacher kept emphasizing the floor and connecting with the floor.... that's when i realized that you don't really hop in lindy hop :wink:

    *chuckles* yeah i've had a couple of crashes on the dance floor, but hey it's crowded it happens. didn't break anyone's bones yet. but its a good lesson (for me anyways) in dancing smaller steps and being more aware of my surroundings. i try to look out for the lead too so (s)he doesn't go slamming into someone behind whilst he/she's trying to watch my back :)

    hmm yeah i think the lead varies from person to person. i've had leads tell me to have a bit more frame, lots more frame, some leads perfectly happy with the amount of frame i have...etc. so i just try to keep the amount of frame comfy for me but sort of match theirs too... not sure if that's right though.

    a thought on footwork. i do work on my basic steps (triple step! triple step!) but when my (occassionally) advanced partners start to do all these hybrid steps (some pilfered from salsa, tango, or variations all over the place) and fancy footwork, is it better to just do my basic steps or to try to imitate whatever it is they're doing? i mean, following the trajectory and direction of the lead is one thing, but when your feet don't know what on earth is going on... *tangled up*

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